The Ministry of Health wants sh5.7b to procure face masks for all students who are expected to return to school on October 15.
The ministry's permanent secretary, Dr Diana Atwine, while appearing before Parliament's budget committee said the masks will cater for the 2,757,722 students in both private and government-aided schools.
"The President (Yoweri Museveni) has directed the health ministry to procure face masks for all students that will be returning to school when they reopen. The education ministry has provided us with a list of all students that will be returning to school. Each student will receive two face masks," she informed the committee chaired by Amos Lugoloobi (Ntenjeru North).
RELAXATION OF LOCKDOWN
In September while addressing the nation, President Museveni relaxed some of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions by reopening schools for final year students in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. The schools are scheduled to reopen on October 15.
The decision on when other classes resume will be made in January.
The education ministry has already issued a number of standard operating procedures (SOPs) as a requirement for the reopening.
Some of the guidelines include handwashing, social distancing, wearing of face masks and enough classrooms with good ventilation and adequate toilet facilities.
Last week, MPs asked the education ministry to help schools purchase sanitisers, soap, face masks and other requirements to help in preventing the spread of COVID-19 when they open for candidate classes.
The MPs argued that with the removal of capitation grants, the schools are likely to transfer the costs to the parents who are already burdened. "Some schools have already sent budgets to the parents asking them to pay for masks, sanitisers and soap.
"They are also asking parents to pay all the school fees for the second term. This puts a heavy burden on parents. Can the ministry provide schools with money to help them buy these requirements?" the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Betty Aol Ocan, asked during the sitting.
Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) asked the education minister to explain whether there were any plans to help schools meet the requirements.
Atwine said the money for students' face masks is part of the additional sh50b that is needed to support the ministry's intervention against COVID-19.
She, however, said the health ministry is still facing challenges related to finances.
Atwine said out of the planned sh51b for masks, only sh33b has been provided and the ministry is yet to pay for some of the procured masks.
"The problem has been financing. Out of sh89b that Parliament approved, we received only sh70b of which sh33b was for masks, tests kits, salaries for workers, allowances, transport for patients, renovation of Namboole stadium and allowances. The money was not adequate," Atwine said.
The permanent secretary said given the demands, even the balance of the funds, which the finance ministry has promised to provide, will not cater for all the remaining districts in need of masks.